A new use for the Old Westmount Train Station?

Westmount Train Station by Jean Gagnon, 2011

As you are doubtless aware, the new Glen Campus ‘Superhospital’ of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is both over-budget and behind schedule, but that was nothing new. Moreover, what I can only describe as an exceptionally poor omission in the planning of the new hospital, access to the Vendome inter-modal station has not been finalized.

I say again, the superhospital under construction adjacent to a crucial multi-modal public transit station was not designed with direct access to the station. And apparently there is a suggestion that one key access point won’t even connect directly with the hospital, but will rather deposit the sick and infirm somewhere outside, so that they can choose which hospital to go to. And I’m wondering whether or not they could make this choice inside a temperature controlled underground passageway connecting directly with the building?

According to this recent Open File Montreal article by Kate McDonnell, planning for public access seems significantly retarded. Despite the fact that public transit use is on the rise and the location of the Superhospital at the former Glen Yard is at a major traffic junction, those responsible for the project are tight-lipped about why this particular aspect was so blatantly over-looked. That there will assuredly be a marked increase in traffic hasn’t even lead planners to finalize plans to handle the greater load.

If you’re going to do something, do it right, and plan for the future. All of the plans mentioned at the public consultation meeting for handling additional traffic and connecting the station with the hospital seem overtly reactionary; small steps and band-aid solutions. We have a golden opportunity to significantly increase the overall economic value of the site simply by better planning for the expected massive increase in traffic. Vendome could become a station as important as Berri-UQAM, with connections to numerous local buildings and several modes of public transit. The land south of Boul. de Maisonneuve between Claremont and Decarie Boulevard is already principally office space, and there’s no reason to think something might not one day be built on top of the station. Point is, developing new station access points at the extremities of the station would assist in traffic diffusion and help prevent bottle-necking, not to mention increase the value of the buildings now offering direct access to the Métro station. Certainly prospectors will be interested in developing the empty lot where Ste-Catherine’s becomes Claremont, and a multi-level underground parking garage would be beneficial as well (may as well dig up the whole thing and do all the work simultaneously, IMHO).

And then at the far Eastern end of the campus site, the derelict and abandoned Westmount Train Station. Would it not make sense to re-open the train station and have the AMT unload there instead of right next to a busy Métro station and bus terminus? It’s less than a five minute walk and would further allow for better traffic diffusion and less bottle-neck.

I’m going to finish this later; check back for updates.

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